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How to Protect Your Dog in Canine Group Situations

The threat of disease and parasites in places like kennels and dog parks is real.

Vaccination is one way to protect your pup from disease in group situations. By: Brian George

Good news: Life is getting better for most of our dogs all the time.

Americans care more about the family dog than ever before. We give them better health care, are concerned about their emotional well-being and consider them part of our families — a big part.

So why do we put them at unnecessary risk? If they are in situations where transmission of infectious disease is more likely, we should protect our special canine friends.

Canine Group Situations

These include the following:

  • Dog parks
  • Doggy day care
  • Kennels
  • Grooming
  • Dog walking if walking with multiple dogs
  • Dog shows
  • Dog agility
  • Dog obedience or training
  • Shelters

Your dog will be at more risk for disease if you place him in any of these canine group situations.

If your dog is a social butterfly, research the safety and risks of the dog parks and other facilities that you frequent. By: glasgows

The Basic Protection


I am a minimalist when it comes to vaccines. But if your dog spends time with a bunch of other canine fuzzies, your pup should stay up-to-date on the basic vaccinations.

  • Distemper/parvo: Most dogs receive this basic canine vaccine approximately every 3 years. Although these diseases are uncommon, the risk increases if your dog is in a high-volume canine situation.

If you are adamantly opposed to vaccines, ask your vet to check titers for distemper and parvo. Titers are simple blood tests that tell you if your dog is still protected against disease from previous vaccination. These tests used to be quite expensive but have come down in price.

  1. Protecting your dog is vital.
  2. Rabies vaccination is a law in all states.
  3. You will save yourself a big headache if any bite situation occurs.

If your dog bites another dog, is bitten by another dog or bites a human being, you must have proof of a current rabies vaccination for your dog. Otherwise, your pup will be placed under a rabies quarantine.

  • Bordetella: This is our medical name for what is frequently known as “kennel cough.” There’s an inexpensive oral vaccine that protects against most strains of a contagious canine cough.

Like the flu vaccine for humans that does not cover all influenza strains, the Bordetella vaccine is not perfect. It protects your dog from contracting most strains of an infectious canine cough but is not 100%. Nevertheless, if your dog is in a canine group situation, he should get this oral vaccine and be protected.

  • Parasites: Keep your dog on flea and tick preventative if he hangs out with a lot of other dogs. Your pooch may be free of fleas, but who knows what his playmate is carrying in her fluffy fur.
  • Heartworm and intestinal parasite protection: If you use a monthly heartworm preventative, you are also guarding against intestinal parasites. Lots of dogs in a contained space who are sniffing and playing with each other’s poop means a higher possibility of transmission of parasites. Keeping yours on a monthly preventive is great insurance for no bugs in the heart — or in the poop!

This dog loves socializing at the park so much, he flat-out refuses to leave:

YouTube player

Assess the Risk

Canine group situations are all different. But it’s up to you to assess the risk, keep your dog protected and call your vet if he’s showing any signs of cough, diarrhea or lethargy after being in a canine group situation.

Doggy day care, play groups, dog parks seem to be springing up all over the place. Not to mention all sorts of kennels, old school and new age. But even if you can watch your dog on a doggy-cam, do you know the real deal with disease risk?

Some of these facilities keep the dogs inside 100% of the time. There is no outdoor time at all. Dogs are more at risk for contracting disease and parasites in these environments.

Last Word

Canine group situations are frequently a way to provide enrichment for your dog. This should be applauded. I encourage people to do all they can to enhance the quality of dogs’ lives.

But make sure your pup is protected. Do research on the facility if your dog is under the care of others. Be careful in dog parks. Don’t be the person on the bench looking at his phone while his marauding intact male hound dog is creating havoc with the other pups.

And good luck keeping your pooch free of disease. Remember, he can’t wash his hands after play group.


This pet health content was written by a veterinarian, Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD. It was reviewed for accuracy by Dr. Pippa Elliott, BVMS, MRCVS, and was last updated Oct. 11, 2018.